A Fun Visit To Gladys Porter Zoo

Gladys Porter ZooDuring a warm sunny day on our vacation to Brownsville and South Padre Island to escape the cold weather in Austin we spent a very fun few hours at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. The Gladys Porter Zoo is "a visitor-oriented zoological and botanical park, dedicated to the preservation of nature through education, conservation and research" that opened to the public in 1971. During our three quarter of a mile walk through the zoo we got to visit with 377 species of animals (around 1600 animals) and 225 species of plants spread out over 31 acres.

Some of what we really enjoyed and thought separated Gladys Porter Zoo from most other zoos includes:

  • the animals habitats are very well done and truly model the natural environment
  • when we visited the animals were very active
  • the Zoo is very clean and well maintained
  • each exhibit has lots of educational type information about that animal
  • it's easy to navigate through the Zoo grounds and not miss any of the animals

As we walked around the Zoo we kept commenting on how natural looking each exhibits was, how much space each of the animal habitats contained, and how happy the animals were and how much they seemed to be enjoying their habitat. The monkeys were having a blast swinging from tree to tree and the lions weren't pacing back and forth in a line, instead they were relaxing or wandering around their habitat and the majority of the animals were out of hiding and enjoying their surroundings. The habitats are very well done and a perfect model of the naturally occurring habitats such as an open ocean, several resacas, islands, cascading waterfalls, native plants, ponds, boulders, rocky cliffs, and lots more.

Camel HabitatMonkey habitatCascading waterfalls in one animal habitat

As we wondered through the Gladys Porter Zoo we toured four zoo geographic areas:

  • Tropical America - representing the northernmost part of Mexico, all of Central America and the northern two-thirds of South America and home to an incredible variety of plants and animals ranging from Macaws to Caribbean flamingos to Galapagos tortoises as well as spider monkeys, Orinoco crocodiles, and dozens of other unique and rare animals from the tropics

Turtlerare troopic animalSnake

  • Africa - this section has giraffes, zebras, African lions, ostrich, gorillas, chimpanzees, and white rhinos, along with some of the not-so-familiar animals such as Arabian oryx, greater kudu, cape hunting dogs, bontebok and bongo

LionzebraRare animal at the  Gladys Porter Zoo

  • Indo-Australia - this section of the Zoo represents the regions of Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand and has orangutans, tree kangaroos, kookaburras, crocodiles, wallabies, and magpie geese, along with many other species native to Australia, as well as an interactive aviary

Monkeysanimal at the Gladys Porter Zoo Gladys Porter Zoo

  • Asia - in this area are gaur, Przewalski’s horses, Bactrian camels, pleated gibbons, and more

 Gladys Porter Zoo animalAsia animalCamel

And there is lots more to enjoy at the Gladys Porter Zoo:

  • The Bear Grottos are very realistic representations of the natural environment of sun bears, spectacled bears and black bears with rock cliffs, waterfalls, a variety of vegetation and caves
  • In the Herpetarium are huge pythons, coral snakes, Mexican milk snakes, a variety of lizards, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, boa constrictors, crocodiles, and more
  • Russell Aquatic Ecology Center is all about the aquatic habitats of South Texas and the animals and plants that live there. The exhibits resemble the naturally occurring habitats and it's home to a 30,000 gallon Deep Water Exhibit with red snapper, black drum, sand trout, sheepshead, spadefish, snook, lookdowns, jacks, sharks, plus small exhibits with seahorses, octopus, sea robins, stargazers, live shrimp, crabs and live snails and best of all is the stingray touch tank with a variety of friendly stingrays that will swim up to the edge of the tank and let you touch them


  • The Herpetarium is home to a walk through free flight aviary with dozens of unusual and colorful birds in a tropical rainforest habitat with crashing waterfalls, a meandering stream, and 18 species of colorful birds,
  • Even the playground is well done and includes a cool tree house, swings, misters, and more
  • Realm of the Dragon features the rare Komodo dragon that can get up to 10 feet long and weigh over 220 pounds.
  • The Butterflies, Bugs, and Blooms exhibit houses many species of live butterflies and assorted arthropods
  • Macaw Canyon is a very well done replica of a canyon in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas and it's home to 56,000 cubic feet of free-flight space for military and blue and yellow macaws, caracaras and king vultures

PlaygroundBirds komodo dragon

Kids will love the animals in Small World with it's petting zoo with inhabitants like the Nigerian dwarf goats, miniature horse, miniature zebu, and chickens. Make sure you get some seed to feed the birds and food to feed the giraffes. And after all that walking you'll most likely be thirsty and hungry and want to feed yourself - the good news is that spread throughout the Zoo are six different places to quince your dry throat and feed your growling tummy and starving kids. You'll find everything from hot dogs to cappuccino to ice cream or tacos, salads, BBQ sandwiches, or burgers.

Small WorldGiraffethe Oasis

You should also check out the wide variety of educational programs at Gladys Porter Zoo like their Starlight Safari Sleep over or Summer Teen Program.

Bottom line - a very well done Zoo with a wide variety of species enjoying a habitat that resembles their natural habitat.

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